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Hoosier Hysteria: A Fateful Year in the Crosshairs of Race in America

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Indiana University, September 1963. Meri Henriques, a naïve freshman from New York, arrives on campus thinking she’s about to enroll at an idyllic Midwestern college. Instead, she discovers a storm is brewing. An intriguing cast of characters inhabits Meri’s new and often troubled world: Katherine “Pixie” Gates, Meri’s charming and quirky roommate; Rachel, brilliant and sa Indiana University, September 1963. Meri Henriques, a naïve freshman from New York, arrives on campus thinking she’s about to enroll at an idyllic Midwestern college. Instead, she discovers a storm is brewing. An intriguing cast of characters inhabits Meri’s new and often troubled world: Katherine “Pixie” Gates, Meri’s charming and quirky roommate; Rachel, brilliant and sarcastic fellow New Yorker; Daniel, a tough radical with a tender heart; folk singer Derek Stone, Meri’s crush; and Shennandoah Waters, a white coed who only dates black men or exotic foreigners, much to her ultra-conservative parents’ horror. Over the course of Meri’s first year at college, tragedy strikes twice: John Kennedy is assassinated, and a young, black IU basketball player is castrated and thrown into a ditch―murdered for dating a white coed. And finally, that year’s commencement ceremonies bring an infamous symbol of white supremacy to campus, endangering anyone who dared to protest―thrusting Meri into the middle of violent and escalating racial tensions. Vivid and compelling, Hoosier Hysteria is a timely story of prejudice and political unrest that, today more than ever before, must be told.


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Indiana University, September 1963. Meri Henriques, a naïve freshman from New York, arrives on campus thinking she’s about to enroll at an idyllic Midwestern college. Instead, she discovers a storm is brewing. An intriguing cast of characters inhabits Meri’s new and often troubled world: Katherine “Pixie” Gates, Meri’s charming and quirky roommate; Rachel, brilliant and sa Indiana University, September 1963. Meri Henriques, a naïve freshman from New York, arrives on campus thinking she’s about to enroll at an idyllic Midwestern college. Instead, she discovers a storm is brewing. An intriguing cast of characters inhabits Meri’s new and often troubled world: Katherine “Pixie” Gates, Meri’s charming and quirky roommate; Rachel, brilliant and sarcastic fellow New Yorker; Daniel, a tough radical with a tender heart; folk singer Derek Stone, Meri’s crush; and Shennandoah Waters, a white coed who only dates black men or exotic foreigners, much to her ultra-conservative parents’ horror. Over the course of Meri’s first year at college, tragedy strikes twice: John Kennedy is assassinated, and a young, black IU basketball player is castrated and thrown into a ditch―murdered for dating a white coed. And finally, that year’s commencement ceremonies bring an infamous symbol of white supremacy to campus, endangering anyone who dared to protest―thrusting Meri into the middle of violent and escalating racial tensions. Vivid and compelling, Hoosier Hysteria is a timely story of prejudice and political unrest that, today more than ever before, must be told.

54 review for Hoosier Hysteria: A Fateful Year in the Crosshairs of Race in America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mackey

    No review. I would give this book ZERO stars if that was possible!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Borders

    Meri Henriques was a college freshman when she arrived at Indiana University's campus in the fall of 1963. Unbeknownst to her, Meri was entering a tense racial climate. Dormitories were just finally on the cusp of integration, and Meri found herself right in the middle of the racial tension when she was assigned to a room with a black roommate, Pixie. Meri immediately became an ally to Pixie, but she quickly realizes that standing up for what is right could also put her in a precarious situation Meri Henriques was a college freshman when she arrived at Indiana University's campus in the fall of 1963. Unbeknownst to her, Meri was entering a tense racial climate. Dormitories were just finally on the cusp of integration, and Meri found herself right in the middle of the racial tension when she was assigned to a room with a black roommate, Pixie. Meri immediately became an ally to Pixie, but she quickly realizes that standing up for what is right could also put her in a precarious situation with the university. I loved this blast from the past. The 1963 setting was fascinating. The idea of a dorm mother and all the restrictions placed on the girls was shocking to me. On the flip side, the racial divide, although also shocking in its severity, was also all too familiar even 50+ years later. It certainly is still, unfortunately, a very relevant read in that regard. I blew through this memoir because Meri had a way of conveying her story in a way that was compulsively readable. It's very much a coming-of0age memoir, as Meri has just left home for the first time and is figuring out who she is and what exactly she believes in. However, I would have liked more information. Specifically, the relationship between Meri and her parents is alluded to but there is never a full explanation given for the tension there. ALSO, the epilogue was weak as hell. Either Meri is planning to write a separate memoir about her time at UC Berkley or someone really dropped the ball on this. I'm hoping for the former but suspecting the latter. Because I really need to know what happened to her once she got there, specifically was her love interest there waiting for her? Did they have a relationship? I saw a very disparaging review about Hoosier Hysteria as far as the accuracy of it. I am not the type that's going to research every minute detail to determine whether the author was 100% factual in their retelling of their story. Honestly, I'm not even sure why it's such a big deal to some readers in the first place. Memories are fallible, especially after such a long time. So yes, I would take everything Meri says with a grain of salt. It is, after all, HER story, not a comprehensive history of race relations at IU in 1963. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an egalley of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Agranoff

    When this review is over you might not believe that I was rooting for this memoir. The fact is that I wanted to like this book and I made it to the last page. The thing is I just don't think it is a good book. I understand why it is marketed as "A Fateful Year in the Crosshairs of Race in America." Certainly, it is a better hook than "An awkward year in a college freshman's life," but that subtitle would have been more accurate. Look Bloomington is my hometown, my father was a professor at IU, wi When this review is over you might not believe that I was rooting for this memoir. The fact is that I wanted to like this book and I made it to the last page. The thing is I just don't think it is a good book. I understand why it is marketed as "A Fateful Year in the Crosshairs of Race in America." Certainly, it is a better hook than "An awkward year in a college freshman's life," but that subtitle would have been more accurate. Look Bloomington is my hometown, my father was a professor at IU, without that connection to the history of the community I grew up in I would never have made it through this book. This could have been a very important look at a historic moment in a turbulent time at Indiana University. You see Bloomington is now a liberal and progressive center of a very red state in Indiana. The transformation that happened since this author arrived at a very racist college town to what it would become is interesting. The problem is we don't see that transformation, we just see a freshman find a bunch of problems and not return. In fact the story doesn't even really give an arc to the person at the heart of the story. I suspect that the author found herself while at Berkley but we are kind of just told in the bio, not in the actual story. Meri Henriques Vahl came to Bloomington in 1963 and became the first white student at IU to be roommates with two black students. She also got involved in the protest of Alabama governor and ultra-racist George Wallace. Sounds interesting right? Yep, that would make a fascinating book, instead, we get page after page of her day to day life like signing up for classes, bad dorm food and awkward dates with an asshole radical and her crush on the head of folk music club on campus. WHAT????? Look I get it that she was writing a memoir, but she had to know that her observations and what she saw around her were more interesting and important to history than how nervous she was about music school auditions or the hunky graduate student she had a crush on. Her roommates had the far more interesting experience and I found myself wishing that I was reading Pixie's memoir instead. After a year the author left IU and missed out on the very radical activism and change that came in the years that followed. Now that is a story I would like to read... Good thing there is a non-fiction book called Dissent in the Heartland by Mary Ann Wynkoop, that is the book I think people interested in the history of race relations and Indiana should read. I admit I was hoping for a memoir from someone in that position. I am certainly not upset I read this book, I got a good picture of this woman's experience. It just seems a little bit of unintentional white privilege and hubris that she spent so much time on her dating life and not the fascinating story she was so close to. I understand she might not have known many of the details but that is what you do research for. In the acknowledgments, the author points out that many publishers passed on this book and I see why. Whoever wrote the back cover description did a great job selling this book, I just wish we got to read THAT book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I liked reading about Meri's story. I can imagine now what it was like growing up and attending college in the early sixties. It was not easy. Yet, it was even harder if you were of color. I know I did not have an easy time when I attending public school as a little girl. I was made fun of because of my nationality. However, as I was young, I could not understand why it was happening but this allowed me to form bonds with other friends that were considered "outcasts". One of my friends with blac I liked reading about Meri's story. I can imagine now what it was like growing up and attending college in the early sixties. It was not easy. Yet, it was even harder if you were of color. I know I did not have an easy time when I attending public school as a little girl. I was made fun of because of my nationality. However, as I was young, I could not understand why it was happening but this allowed me to form bonds with other friends that were considered "outcasts". One of my friends with black and deaf. I learned sign language to be able to speak with her. Back to Meri. Reading what she went through and what our world is like now is sad. This book does stir up some emotions and makes you grow closer to Meri. However, as much as I did like this book, I didn't form that strong bond. For me when I am reading a memoir or other nonfiction story I want to really become "lost" in the subject matter or story. As I said, this was not the case for me. Don't let me dissuade you from checking out this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    I was interested to read this book because I entered Indiana University as a freshman in 1973, ten years after Meri stood outside her dorm and became part of a revolutionary change in integration policies at IU. Her story was very interesting and insightful into the changes that occurred over the next decade. Meri became one of the first students to be assigned a black roommate in her all female, up to then segregated dorm. She tells her story of her friendship with her black and white friends an I was interested to read this book because I entered Indiana University as a freshman in 1973, ten years after Meri stood outside her dorm and became part of a revolutionary change in integration policies at IU. Her story was very interesting and insightful into the changes that occurred over the next decade. Meri became one of the first students to be assigned a black roommate in her all female, up to then segregated dorm. She tells her story of her friendship with her black and white friends and how easily they got along despite the university’s concerns. This is very much Meri’s story. The climate of the times and the politics of the school are evident, as is her realization that she doesn’t want to enroll for a second year. When I checked into my all female dorm, unlike 10 years before, there were no “house mothers”, bed checks, or lock outs at curfew. There were no restrictions on male visitors to the point that one girl on the floor had her boyfriend living there 90% of the time. I was not aware of the students being put on watch lists for suspicious activity like “Folk Music Club”, but there was certainly still social activism. I would have been very interested in more about what was happening in the general IU student population about race relations and how it sorted itself out among the students.

  6. 4 out of 5

    April

    I was really interested in reviewing this book since I am originally from Indiana and Indiana University is a large part of my community there. Meri Henriques Vahl was an Indiana transplant from New York enrolling in college to go to IU. It was certainly a culture shock to go from a more widely open and diverse city to the small town of Bloomington Indiana. Unfortunately, while there she quickly learned how racial tensions were still pretty high in 1963 as she was quick to find out. It was an int I was really interested in reviewing this book since I am originally from Indiana and Indiana University is a large part of my community there. Meri Henriques Vahl was an Indiana transplant from New York enrolling in college to go to IU. It was certainly a culture shock to go from a more widely open and diverse city to the small town of Bloomington Indiana. Unfortunately, while there she quickly learned how racial tensions were still pretty high in 1963 as she was quick to find out. It was an interesting story and as unfortunate as were the circumstances for a lot of the issues Meri faced, I still felt the book was a great look into her perspective as she continued her education and made the most of her experiences.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    1963 was a tumultuous year no matter where you resided in America. Hoosier Hysteria (a name commonly known to refer to enthusiasm for college sports, but the phrase is aptly turned on its head in this book) gives readers a glimpse into what that year looked like on the campus of a major university located in the heart of the Midwest. Meri is an incoming freshman at Indiana University in the fall of 1963. She's a Jewish woman from New York entering a place where white Christians are the majority, 1963 was a tumultuous year no matter where you resided in America. Hoosier Hysteria (a name commonly known to refer to enthusiasm for college sports, but the phrase is aptly turned on its head in this book) gives readers a glimpse into what that year looked like on the campus of a major university located in the heart of the Midwest. Meri is an incoming freshman at Indiana University in the fall of 1963. She's a Jewish woman from New York entering a place where white Christians are the majority, which becomes just one of many culture shocks she gets, even in that first day. Meri ends up being a part of the school's slow move toward integration, because IU at this moment in time is staunchly against integration, civil rights, political activism, women's rights, the Kennedy Administration as a whole, and a host of things that were deemed too radical at the time. What readers get is a personal account of a young woman that for the most part is a complete outsider to all of this chaos, being able to reflect on how this made an impact on her as a person, on the campus, and on the rest of the region. Reading this book revealed to me, a lifelong Indiana resident, some of the more shameful parts of this state and how, even forty years later when I attended college in Indiana (though not IU), some of the same issues still arose. They don't teach you in your Indiana history class that IU itself, as well as large populated areas such as Indianapolis, were so bigoted at this point in American history. If you learned anything at all about racism in the state, the examples given always pre-dated WWII, which tells me that this late-stage institutional bigotry is not something the state wants to remember. And there were parts of Meri's college experience that reflected my own. While racism wasn't front and center during my college years, classism was prevalent, as well as a religious fervor that could turn a relatively pleasant person into someone you no longer recognized. I even experienced a similar incident like Meri did with the deck of cards frightening her neighbor that the devil might be coming to get her, only my experience pertained to a Ouija board and a neighbor so terrified she acquired a bottle of holy oil to counteract anything that might have been conjured into the dorm. These were the same students that were afraid to be influenced by taking a religious studies class, but then once they did, they didn't see the class as promoting commonality in religious beliefs, but as a way to learn more about someone's beliefs in order to convince them to join their side—similar to the change that Meri saw in her friend Shennandoah after attending church with her family. It was fascinating to see that much about attending a Midwestern college hasn't changed. While college administrations are no longer looking into the personal politics of their students and making sure they are completely above board on the school's definition of morality, the local students still seem to bring plenty of culture shock to those who are of a different city, country, or mindset. *Book provided by NetGalley

  8. 5 out of 5

    SundayAtDusk

    Meri Henriques Vahl left her Jewish family behind in New York in 1963 when she entered Indiana University as a freshman. She saw IU as a place that would allow her to happily study music, as well as get away from a not too happy childhood. What she discovered in Indiana, though, was prejudice and discrimination the likes she had never seen. As a Jew, she personally didn't encounter much discrimination, but her black roommate and the other blacks on campus definitely were seen by most as belongin Meri Henriques Vahl left her Jewish family behind in New York in 1963 when she entered Indiana University as a freshman. She saw IU as a place that would allow her to happily study music, as well as get away from a not too happy childhood. What she discovered in Indiana, though, was prejudice and discrimination the likes she had never seen. As a Jew, she personally didn't encounter much discrimination, but her black roommate and the other blacks on campus definitely were seen by most as belonging to another species. Moreover, when John F. Kennedy was killed, there was much rejoicing by many of the students at IU. There was even a rumor circulating that Lyndon Johnson had died from a heart attack, which made those rejoicing even more joyous. This is not a heavy-handed memoir about race relations, however. Much of the story covers what it was like to be a female student in an all-girl dorm with curfews and strict rules, as well as what the authors's friends, dormmates, teachers and classes were like. She also joined a social justice group that could lose her future scholarships; and changed her major to art, because she did not want to become a music teacher. Add to that, confusing relationships with guys, and you have quite an interesting story of a girl from New York who discovered the grass was not greener in the Midwest. The land was only flatter and the people more parochial and prejudiced. (Note: I received a free e-ARC of this book from NetGalley and the author or publisher.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shir

    I think that this book had issues deciding what it wanted to be: memoir, sociopolitical commentary, or a reflection on the state of affairs on university campuses in the early 1960s. There were so many directions that she could have taken this book and she tries to be everything at once, with the result that, in the end, it's primarily a memoir that only superficially discusses race in America. Meri didn't know how or why she was assigned to room with African-American girls in her dormitory her I think that this book had issues deciding what it wanted to be: memoir, sociopolitical commentary, or a reflection on the state of affairs on university campuses in the early 1960s. There were so many directions that she could have taken this book and she tries to be everything at once, with the result that, in the end, it's primarily a memoir that only superficially discusses race in America. Meri didn't know how or why she was assigned to room with African-American girls in her dormitory her freshman year at IU, but she sticks with her rooming assignment and becomes friends with her roommates. This would have been the perfect opportunity for her to reflect on ethnic tensions on campus and how/why her experiences at Indiana University, Bloomington fit into the broader changes happening across the US, particularly in light of JFK's assassination. Some of the characters in her book were so colorful that I wish Meri had given us a status update about them, a "50 years later" epilogue - Pixie, Myrna, Rachel, Jefferson, Daniel, Derek, all of the people who shaped her freshman year at university. I also wish that she had given a status update on what happened to her after she left IU. I only found out by Googling the author, rather than by anything she wrote in the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    This attempt at a coming of age story falls short. While the author paints a picture of life in Indiana at the beginning of the Civil Rights Era, her story is ultimately focused on herself. There is a lot of teenage angst over the opposite sex and her dating life. Henriques repeatedly tries to impress upon us that only she, her minority friends, and people from either the East or West coasts are open-minded and free of bigotry while at the same time condemning every Midwesterner she meets as a n This attempt at a coming of age story falls short. While the author paints a picture of life in Indiana at the beginning of the Civil Rights Era, her story is ultimately focused on herself. There is a lot of teenage angst over the opposite sex and her dating life. Henriques repeatedly tries to impress upon us that only she, her minority friends, and people from either the East or West coasts are open-minded and free of bigotry while at the same time condemning every Midwesterner she meets as a narrow-minded, less-than-intelligent racist. It was a tumultuous time in this country's history and while the integration of universities and schools did not go smoothly, the harsh judgement rendered in this book seems to present the author's current opinions as well as historical opinions. Not recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    A true story about Indiana University in 1963-64. The author was there and does a reasonable job of depicting college life at that time. I was in college during this time but not in the mid-west. Racism was still prevalent everywhere but I had no idea how things were in Indiana. I found the book interesting. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC of this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I received this book free from the publisher via netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary L

    Purporting to be a memoir, the book passes off fictional stories as truth.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Arzu (Bookish in Midlife)

    The description of this book caught my eye. Meri Henriques was a New Yorker who decided to attend Indiana University in the 1960's amid the changing times in our country. Of course, the forefront was racism. It was refreshing to see the book did not center on the social injustices of those around her, more so it was a story of acceptance, self-discovery, and true friendship. I enjoyed reading about college in the 60's and how it really hasn't changed in regards to class structure, curriculum, do The description of this book caught my eye. Meri Henriques was a New Yorker who decided to attend Indiana University in the 1960's amid the changing times in our country. Of course, the forefront was racism. It was refreshing to see the book did not center on the social injustices of those around her, more so it was a story of acceptance, self-discovery, and true friendship. I enjoyed reading about college in the 60's and how it really hasn't changed in regards to class structure, curriculum, dorm issues, and tuition concerns! Being African American, It saddened me that this story very well could have been written about the US in 2018. People of other nationalities being discriminated against just on the basis of their skin tone. The stereotypes, and the fact that people were so blatant in their views. It was interesting to see it from Meri's perspective being Jewish and trying to fit in with people of other nationalities. She even encountered racism from her own peers! going thru this made her realize how her African American suitemates felt every day of their lives. Hoosier Hysteria was a great read, that took us from Meri's journey of leaving home for the first time, meeting boys, struggling through school, finding and losing love, and the desire to fight for injustice. I highly recommend this book! Thank you for the opportunity to read the ARC copy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Mijangos

    I received an ARC of this memoir from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Interesting memoir set in the beginnings of integration. I enjoyed the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

    This memoir was written during the beginning of integration, but it could have just as easily been written today. It is sad that all of these decades later that people cannot accept people for who they are and not look at race. The author did a beautiful job of writing this and making me understand what she was feeling at the time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Corrin Foster

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Vilas

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carol

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany S

    A memoir is based on a person's knowledge of an event. This book is Meri Henriques Vahl's story of her freshman year in newly desegregated dorms at Indiana University. I really enjoyed this book and felt like I was having a conversation with the author. When I tried to get some supporting back-up to some of what was written, I could find none. I wanted to find some as at least one review is flat out rude. She admitted to changing the names but some of the bigger facts and people like George Wall A memoir is based on a person's knowledge of an event. This book is Meri Henriques Vahl's story of her freshman year in newly desegregated dorms at Indiana University. I really enjoyed this book and felt like I was having a conversation with the author. When I tried to get some supporting back-up to some of what was written, I could find none. I wanted to find some as at least one review is flat out rude. She admitted to changing the names but some of the bigger facts and people like George Wallace should have been verifiable. I would gladly change my review if the events could be verified. I did a fair amount of googling to try to find! #HoosierHysteria #NetGalley

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Stapleton

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alia

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amie's Book Reviews

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachella Baker

  31. 4 out of 5

    Fleet Sparrow

  32. 4 out of 5

    Micielle

  33. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

  34. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  35. 5 out of 5

    Kim Ellis

  36. 4 out of 5

    BETTY SHEREN

  37. 5 out of 5

    Hyacinth

  38. 5 out of 5

    Fran Whitley

  39. 4 out of 5

    Haley

  40. 4 out of 5

    V

  41. 4 out of 5

    F

  42. 4 out of 5

    Barbie Campbell

  43. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Hall

  44. 5 out of 5

    Lizette

  45. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Isaacs

  46. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  47. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  48. 4 out of 5

    Cavak

  49. 4 out of 5

    Beryl

  50. 5 out of 5

    Stacia Chappell

  51. 5 out of 5

    Aline

  52. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

  53. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

  54. 4 out of 5

    Eric

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